Tension: Korean missile test as Trump rages
As Pyongyang launches another missile test, the White House reportedly seethes with paranoia. Do either of the leaders of North Korea and the USA have a rational plan? If not, what next?
North Korea just cannot give up the limelight. As the world focuses on Trump’s troubles in America and Britain’s general election, this secretive dictatorship launched another ballistic missile test yesterday.
Japanese officials say the missile reached an altitude of 2,000km. The country’s defence minister said it flew for about 30 minutes before falling in the Sea of Japan. There are rumours it could be a new type of missile.
On both sides of the world’s most heavily guarded border, the Korean peninsula is in a state of flux. In March, South Korea’s president was impeached, triggering a general election. The new president, Moon Jae-in, who is seeking deeper engagement with the North, said it was a “reckless provocation”. China, one of North Korea’s few allies, is urging de-escalation.
A statement from the White House said that North Korea has been “a flagrant menace for far too long”. Since becoming president, Donald Trump has called for stronger sanctions against North Korea.
But the US leadership no longer looks so stable. Since the shock firing of FBI chief James Comey last weekend, Trump’s behaviour seems to have become erratic. According to a figure close to the White House, Trump is “in the grip of some kind of paranoid delusion.”
According to Philip Rucker in The Washington Post, Trump has been “aggrieved” by media scrutiny of the firing, leading to the president and his team constantly changing their stated motives for getting rid of Comey. Trump has now admitted that the investigation into his links with Russia, which he views as a “witch-hunt”, played a part in his decision.
He has apparently “lashed out at the communications office”, and there is even talk he may be about to fire a number of his closest advisers.
In short, while a 33-year-old hereditary leader orders nuclear missile tests, puts thousands of his own people into gulags and has senior officials and even his own relatives killed, the leader of the free world, far from being at his calmest and wisest, seems to be somewhat unpredictable.
Is there method behind the madness?
“These people are no mugs”, many say. Idiots do not become billionaires or defy enormous odds by winning the US presidency. Donald Trump knows exactly what he is doing. Just because you don’t like his style is not a reason to draw any false equivalence with a tin-pot murderous dictator in Korea.
“Accepted”, say others. But Donald Trump is so different from leaders like Obama, May and Merkel. They are all so calm they are reassuringly boring and dull. He seems to rule by emotion and that must be risky for a man with such power.
- Can emotional people be effective leaders?
- Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un: is there any legitimate comparison?
- Class debate: “This house believes the USA should invade North Korea and overthrow its leadership.”
- Research a historical world leader who thrived among chaos, and write 500 words about them.
Some People Say...
“People are always predicting a third world war. It never happens.”
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Q & A
- What do we know?
- On Sunday, North Korea launched another missile test, which they are banned from doing by UN Security Council resolutions. It was the latest in a series of tests this year, including two failed launches last night, as the rockets exploded just minutes into flight. Meanwhile in the USA, Donald Trump has come under renewed pressure after his firing of the FBI chief James Comey.
- What do we not know?
- So much. First, as North Korea is the world’s most secretive country, we do not know exactly why they keep launching missile tests. Are they genuinely prepared for war, or do they simply want to unnerve the rest of the world? And then there is the question of the Comey firing. Did Trump do it in order to derail an investigation into his apparent links with Russia?
- It is the sixth test of the year.
- President Park Geun-hye, leader of the main conservative party, became the country’s first democratically elected leader to be forced from office. She was impeached over a corruption scandal centred on her relationship with an old friend, amid allegations of cult activities, influence-peddling and leaks of classified information.
- Moon Jae-in
- 64 year-old Moon comes from the liberal Democratic Party of Korea. He secured 41% of the vote in the recent presidential election.
- The state of North Korea was founded by Kim Jong Un’s grandfather, Kim Il Sung. He was replaced by his son Kim Jong Il, Kim Jong Un’s father.
- North Korea has several hard labour camps, estimated to be home to 80–120,000 political prisoners, many of whom are condemned for life.
- Kim Jong Un has reportedly executed 140 senior officials including his own uncle and in February, his older brother, Kim Jong Nam, in exile from North Korea, was poisoned and killed at Kuala Lumpur airport, many international observers believe at the leader’s orders.